Clarissa Eastman has been a quest--I was thrilled last June to find the original of the only picture I'd seen of her, which was a lousy xerox--her portrait hangs high up on the wall at the Franklin, Idaho DUP Museum. Then this fall, I discovered her husband's journal in the Church History archives and her testimony is written at the end.
Clarissa was well-educated, and proud of being descended from the distinguished New England Prouty family. Despite being in poor health as a young mother, she taught her children to read, write, and sew. She also later taught her grandchildren to read and do sums. The Eastmans mourned a son who died of an accident at a young age.
Clarissa and her husband James were devout Christians but did not unite with a church until James met the LDS missionaries while in Boston on a business trip. James was baptized and Clarissa soon joined as well. They left their comfortable home for Nauvoo via the steamboat Robert Fulton from Troy to Albany, New York, then railway and canal to Pittsburg, then steamboat on the Ohio.
Clarissa performed proxy baptisms for her sisters in Nauvoo. In the fall of 1843, she and James were among the three thousand Saints who signed the Scroll Petition for Mormon redress due to mob violence. The Eastmans received their blessings in the Nauvoo Temple. Once they left Nauvoo, the Eastmans traveled in rainstorms nearly daily for months. This was a hard time for the family, as all were ill for weeks on end. Clarissa’s sister Lavinia Whipple and her baby died at Council Bluffs, and then Clarissa’s husband James also died in Winter Quarters.
Clarissa recovered and crossed the plains (in the same company as the Gawain's Sanders family). She insisted on bringing along her little rocking chair, which her husband had made. Her son Ozro returned from the first expedition west with Brigham Young to accompany his widowed mother and sister Sylvia to Utah. Clarissa and Sylvia helped turn the adobe for their first Utah house. Clarissa moved in with Sylvia when her oldest child (Lorenzo Lafayette Hatch) was born, and lived with the Hatches in both Utah and Idaho until her death. She doctored her grandchildren when ill, wrapping up their legs—sore with growing pains—in “red hot flannel”; she also knit their stockings and mittens and told them stories.
It is said that Clarissa was never known to have lost her temper, and only told one falsehood in her life, when she took some dried apples and didn’t own up to it. Her testimony, given when she was 84 years old in 1877, reads as follows: “I want to bear my testimony to the work we are engaged in. When I received the testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet I was as happy as I could be in the flesh, seemingly I loved all who loved him and the doctrine he taught. I loved Nauvoo and had the spirit of gathering as soon as I believed. The spirit of Christ tells his servants they cannot be wrong. And so it was I have never had a doubt of the truth of this work for a moment.”
Happy Birthday, Clarissa--I would give you an umbrella for Winter Quarters, and as many dried apples as you want to eat while knitting in your rocker.